Yakima orchard faces $105,000 fine over pesticide misuse

Gilbert Orchards in Yakima is facing a $105,000 fine after state inspectors say they found a dozen serious health violations at orchard operations involving potentially deadly pesticides.

The state Department of Labor and Industries started inspections in March after hearing that Gilbert employees were applying a gopher killer called Fumitoxin by hand without respirators or training.

Fumitoxin contains a chemical that reacts with water to release phosphine gas, which is highly toxic and can be lethal, the department said in a news release.

Inspectors said workers who were wearing incorrect respiratory protection sprinkled the toxic pellets into gopher holes and added water to activate the poison.

Because Fumitoxin is a restricted-use pesticide, it comes with an assortment of restrictions and precautions, which inspectors say Gilbert disregarded.

The fine amount is broken down into two types of violations. State labor officials assessed $42,000 in penalties for three repeat-serious violations, based on a citation Gilbert Orchards received in July 2014 for not following protocol for respiratory protection.